The Art of Adultery

When dalliance was in flower and maidens lost their heads.
-- A 1957 release of bawdy English ballads sung by Ed McCurdy

When dalliance was in flower and maidens lost their heads.
-- A 1957 release of bawdy English ballads sung by Ed McCurdy

is time to review the rules for confessions of infidelity by public
figures. They do not address toilet stall tap dancing since that, being
a solo performance, raises different issues from the dalliances here
addressed. These involve married couples. A number of matters of
etiquette present themselves and the ones we examine are: attendance at
the required press conference (who does and does not attend), tears
(presence or absence) and apologies.

The proper place for
the wife during the public confession of infidelity is first. In the
John Ensign and Mark Sanford press conferences the wives were absent.
In the Eliot Spitzer and David Vitter press conferences the wives were
present although a study in contrasts. Mr. Spitzer's wife assumed a
stoical stance standing by her husband's side although reports said Ms.
Spitzer's jaws were so firmly clenched that she could have bitten
through a bar of steel. Mr. Vitter's wife stood beside him but that
came as something of a surprise since she had once said,
about the possibility of her husband's infidelity,: "I'm a lot more
like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary. If he does something like that, I'm
walking away with one thing, and it's not alimony, trust me." John
Edwards had an interview on ABC News without his wife and then issued a

The next question: tears. The score is four to
one against. Governor Sanford of South Carolina was the one. That may
be explained because of his deep religious feelings and his
understandable self loathing. He feels so strongly about the importance
of family values that when voting for the impeachment of Bill Clinton
he piously proclaimed
that: "If you had a chairman or president in the business world facing
these allegations, he'd be gone. . . .I think what he did in this
matter was reprehensible. . . ." He didn't just shed a tear or two. He
reportedly choked
up repeatedly during the press conference. That was consistent with his
activities earlier in the week that he described as being spent with
his mistress in Argentina crying (presumably, though unspoken, among
other activities.)

All the men were appropriately contrite.
They knew that in addressing their transgressions their apologies had
to be heartfelt and all encompassing. David Vitter set the tone by
announcing that God and his wife had already forgiven him (she by
eschewing emasculation) and said the discussions would be limited to
those two. He concluded, however, saying: I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way." Eliot Spitzer said that:
"I apologize first, and most importantly, to my family. I apologize to
the public, whom I promised better." John Edwards, lamenting the
paucity of the English language, said:
"It is inadequate to say to the people who believed in me that I am
sorry, as it is inadequate to say to the people who love me that I am
sorry." Senator Ensign said: "I know that I have deeply hurt and
disappointed my wife Darlene, my children, my family, friends, my
staff, and all those who believed in me. And to all of them, especially
my wife, I'm truly sorry." Senator Sanford said: "I hurt you all. I hurt my wife. I hurt my boys. And all I can say is I apologize."

is surely a coincidence that the Europeans choose moments when we are
in a dither over the private sex lives of public figures to show us
that groveling because of sexual peccadilloes is unnecessary in truly
civilized societies. The reaction to disclosure of the fact that Mr.
Spitzer found pleasure in prostitutes seemed foolish when compared with
the equanimity with which the French greeted the goings on of Nicholas
Sarkozy, his then wife and their respective lovers and his then
political opponent, Segolene Royal and her long time partner, Francois
Holland. There was no groveling. And now, courtesy of the Italians, the
contrast is again stark.

The wife of Italy's Silvio Berlusconi
has announced her intention to divorce him, in no small part because of
pictures of him cavorting with young girls at his assorted mansions.
Mr. Berlusconi's equanimity is undisturbed. He maintains that his
cavorting is perfectly harmless. When three women, not quite so young,
came forward saying they were paid to attend parties at his official
residence and were given jewelry Mr. Berlusconi was asked
if he had ever paid a woman "so she would be with him." Responding as
one might exact from a man of his temperament he said: "Naturally, no.
I have never understood what satisfaction there is if not in the
pleasure of conquest. There is nothing in my private life for which I
should apologize."

The French and Italians know how what importance to place upon adultery in their national dialogue. We should be so civilized.

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